During the week of February 21st, Veronica Morris-Moore did not rest. She was dedicating her body, her energy, and her time to making sure that people make the smart choices for the betterment of Black lives.

Instead of sleeping, Morris-Moore protested against Anita Alvarez, the current state attorney for Chicago who in no way, shape, or form should have control over Black lives because she abuses her power and has no respect for Black people. Morris-Moore rightfully believes that the greatest power that we have seen is action and protest. Her language is poetic and her dedication is inspiring. With Morris-Moore and the efforts of Fearless Leading by the Youth (F.L.Y.), an organization founded to enact change by carrying out political campaigns created by Black youth. Because of their work, there will now be a trauma center on the Southside of Chicago.  In this installment of Black Youth Spotlight, we talk with Morris-Moore and gain insight into  how her actions has helped save lives on the Southside.

Jennifer Chukwu (BYP): From your experience campaigning for the trauma center what have you learned?

Veronica Morris-Moore: I have learned that power in Black community absolutely exists and it rests in building people up.  Also when we are talking about the Black community and how to make it better, I’ve learned that liberation is completely possible when people come together and organize.  The last thing people will look to is how to make a Black community.

JC:  The campaign for the trauma center faced a lot of pushback from different people or institutions like the University of Chicago. When looking back at the campaign is there anything that you wish you knew before?

VMM:  No, every single thing that happened as it happened shaped the person who I am now.  Although, I do wish that I had a better understanding of what power actually looked like, what it felt like, and what it meant to build. But learning and going through that process of having to navigate power structures and push the campaign to victory is what ultimately made the campaign for the trauma center successful.  Looking back, I don’t think that I want to change or know anything else.

JC: Although the campaign was successful, it took years of organizing, protesting, and refusing to take no for an answer. Why do you believe that it took so long for a trauma center to open on the Southside?

VMM: For me that question can be answered with a question. Why are Black people still suffering in America? I think that power needs to be built among Black people in order to make change happen. These people don’t care about us, and that’s what I’ve learned to understand being a young Black queer woman from the Southside of Chicago.  It is so clear for me from when I was a CPS student to living on the Eastside of Chicago to working in Woodlawn and going to school in that community. There’s nothing in any of these institutions that say to me I care about you as a whole human being, and as a person—whether it benefits me too or not. Nothing about this society and nothing that I consume in this society says to me I love you and I want to see you live and thrive, and there not being a trauma center on the Southside of Chicago was part of that feeling of no one caring for people like us.

JC: Earlier you talked about the importance of building a Black community. What do you feel like is one of the most effective ways of building one?

VMM: There’s so many great ways to build a Black community, but definitely one of the most effective is through community organizing. I’ve seen great communities built in spaces where I felt the really strong connection to its community and its people. I have also seen the practice of restorative justice lived out in communities and I’ve also seen that direct action is a form of the democratic process to address social issues. For me, building up leadership in every person and making strong community ties through being there for each other in a multitude of levels and ways, whether it’s through services or support and development, is the best way to exist.

JC: It can be overwhelming always knowing that your body and who you are is not wanted by society at large because society wasn’t made for us.  How do you engage in self-care to make sure you’re able to take care of yourself and keep on campaigning and fighting?

VMM: I wish that I could tell you that I set x amount of hours for self care and am very strict about it, but I’m not.  A lot of people know that it is something that I’m trying to get better about, but I always tell people doing this work is self-care. Like we said, I live in a world that doesn’t want my body to exist. I believe that the best way to exist is to organize and be in a community with people that’s Black where their body resembles mine. For me, being able to be in those spaces is self-care for me.

JC: Is there anything you want the readers of BYP to know about what you’re doing next and what’s happening now?

VMM: There’s a lot going on now. We’re in a time where movement work is very physical and very visible.  As I think back on my 23 years of life, I don’t remember seeing protestors, actions, and all these things happening around me on my TV screen, on my newspaper, or in school. I think that we are tasked as an organization that’s still dedicated and committed to this movement for the past six years with making sure that not only we are visible, but we are also vision people and are able being able to build what we have and have the capacity to be able to address the monster that we are staring at. Also, there’s a lot of things in the Black community that is internalized and we don’t really analyze. Why are our schools like this? Why is our community like this? Why are trans people murdered and killed and there’s no uproar about it? Why do we feel the need to call police and have police? Why are there so many guns on our street? I think that the movement has to answer these questions and use our visibility to answer them for the masses. 

(Photo: Provided by Veronica Morris-Moore)